Authorities in Haiti on Thursday forcefully pushed back against reports that current government officials were involved in the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, calling them “a lie.”
Léon Charles, head of Haiti’s National Police, denied a report from Caracol news, a Colombian-based private TV station, that claimed interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph was the mastermind of the July 7 killing.
“The police warns of all propaganda creating a diversion,” he said, adding that the government has no evidence to support those claims.
Haitian authorities have otherwise not been very forthcoming with information about who might have been behind the killing, suggesting that media reports implicating current officials had struck a nerve in the government.
In Colombia, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, the head of that country’s national police force, told reporters that he had no information suggesting Joseph had any role in the plot.
Charles also said the head of Moïse’s security detail, Dimitri Hérard, had been removed from his post and placed in isolated detention after officials interrogated him. Police had announced his detention in recent days. Charles said authorities will meet with him a third time before deciding the next steps.
Hérard has not officially been named as a suspect in the investigation, but many Haitians have questioned how attackers could have invaded the president’s house and killed him with no injuries among those assigned to protect him.
The press conference was held a day after the Colombian TV station aired a report it said was based on information from FBI sources and Haitian authorities as well as telephone calls, pictures and testimony from those accused of participating in the plot.
Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise are tossed on the floor after being detained, at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. A Haitian judge involved in the murder investigation said that President Moise was shot a dozen times and his office and bedroom were ransacked.( AP Photo/Jean Marc Hervé Abélard)
“I’m issuing a formal denial to these allegations,” Charles said, calling them “a lie.”
Joseph, the interim prime minister, was about to be replaced when the assassination occurred. Moïse had named him to the post in April following the resignation of Joseph Jouthe, who held the post for just over a year.
Two days before the assassination, Moïse announced that he had chosen a new prime minister, neurosurgeon Ariel Henry. But the new prime minister had not yet been sworn into office as of July 7, and Joseph has insisted he is in charge of the government, a claim that has been recognized by the U.S. and others.
Charles said police have arrested 23 people in the killing, including 18 former Colombian soldiers, three Haitians and two Haitian-Americans. Police also have issued seven arrest warrants, searched 10 buildings, conducted 27 interrogations and placed four high-ranking police officers in isolation, he said.
He added that the investigation has benefited from the help of the FBI and foreign countries that he did not name.
On Thursday, Colombian President Iván Duque told private radio station La FM that only a small group of the former Colombian soldiers linked to the killing knew it was going to be a criminal operation. He said the others were duped and thought they would be traveling for a mission to provide protection.
“Once they were over there, the information they were given changed,” Duque said, adding that “they ended up involved in these unfortunate events.”
The Pentagon issued a statement saying a small number of the Colombian suspects had previously received U.S. military training and education programs while serving in the Colombian military. It said it had no additional details to offer pending a review that is still in progress.